Lilith’s Brooding Sociology Treatise

Spoiler Check: Contains spoilers for Dawn, Book #1 of the Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia Butler.

Another lemming. Barely half an hour into a ten hour audiobook, I lemmed* (in other words abandoned) Adulthood Rites, the second book in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, collectively known as “Lilith’s Brood”.

I had read the first book “Dawn” back in March, largely because it was a well-liked book pick on the Sword & Laser podcast. And there is much to be said in praise of Dawn: the dramatic early scenes where main protagonist Lilith discovers she is a prisoner of the alien Oankali race, the Oankali themselves as a concept, the ideas around the genetic merger of humans and Oankali. Some aspects were less appealing, not least the sociological examination of human group interactions. Interesting up to a point but ultimately overdone.

Having broadly enjoyed the book, I added the second in the series to my “to read” list. Not that enthusiastically, I have to say. Even at the time I had doubts about whether the follow up would be the sort of book I would enjoy. But when it came to the top of the list I dutifully spent my Audible credit and downloaded it, and my worst fears were confirmed almost from the first sentence. It was never going to be able to repeat the impact of Dawn – we already know all about the Oankali’s physical appearance and use of sensory tentacles, their three genders, their technological advancement centred on biology, and particularly genetic manipulation, as opposed to say physics or chemistry and their modus operandi with other species involving “gene trade”. So all that was left for book 2 was the inter-species sociological consequences of the Oankali’s deal with the humans. It came over as a sociology treatise and started to rankle straight away.

Getting my credit back was no problem at all. All I had to do was invoke Audible’s “Great Listen Guarantee” from their website.

I have now downloaded Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. And instantly it is altogether more readable, or listenable-to, or whatever. I’m hoping this one will give me 32 hours of listening pleasure and no cause for another lemming.

*One of the hosts of the Sword & Laser podcast, Veronica Belmont, once gave up on one of the show’s book-picks, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem. Since that time, the show has used the made-up verb “to lem” to refer to the act of abandoning a book part way through.

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